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Family finds veteran’s grave, petitions to have official Civil War gravestone placed

Years of researching and walking cemeteries have finally paid off for the descendants of one Civil War veteran who was laid to rest in Day County. Next Monday, the great-granddaughters of Chauncey Morey will attend the Memorial Day program at Prairie Mound Cemetery north of Butler where they will, for the first time, see his new, official Civil War headstone.

“We’ve been working on this a long time,” Turton resident Kay Wolner said by telephone last week. She and her three sisters – Ruth Morey, Helen Munger, both Aberdeen, and Verna Thurston, Rochester, MN – have been trying to learn about their great-grandfather for almost two decades.

Growing up, Kay said she remembers her dad occasionally taking out an old chest full of historical paperwork and items which painted the story of Chauncey’s military service during the Civil War. Later, those items were all lost in a house fire.

“As we got older, we started to wonder where he was buried,” Kay said. “That started a journey to find out.”

Their search led them to Webster and to the Museum of Wildlife, Science and Industry where they were able to find paperwork that confirmed Chauncey had served in the Civil War.

“So we knew he was up there,” Kay said.

They eventually learned their great-grandfather had moved to South Dakota in October 1883. He filed for Civil War pension twice – July 24, 1890 and again April 11, 1896 – both while living in Day County. According to Kay, Chauncey had joined the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment Company D in March 1865 as a private, in Minnesota at the age of 25. Originally, Chauncey was from the Fremont, MN area where Kay says there is still a pond named Morey Pond. He apparently came to Day County and farmed in the Crocker area.

Kay said she, along with her husband Jim, and sisters would take road trips to Day County where they began searching for their great-grandfather’s grave, one cemetery at a time.

“We went around to all the cemeteries and walked through them each,” she said. “It was enjoyable in that we kept feeling like we’d check one off and get that much closer to finding him.”

According to the research the sisters did, Chauncey Morey was born in 1839 and died Oct. 15, 1899 when he was apparently buried in the Prairie Mound Cemetery north of Butler. Kay said they happened to this cemetery after learning of a “baby Morey” who was buried there.

“I just happened to brush aside a peony bush and there was the marker,” Kay said.

The simple flat marker, Kay said, lacked a birth date and only had a death year – which she said was incorrect. The only date on the stone was 1905.

“The amusing thing was that for years and years, they heralded him as a World War I veteran, when he was already dead by 1899,” Kay said. That war didn’t begin until 1914. The Civil War was from April 1861 to May 1865.

From that point, they started looking into the possibility of getting a Civil War stone for the grave. They were initially denied but stayed persistent. Once Ruth made it her project and sent paperwork to the Department of Veterans Affairs in Nashville, TN, they heard back that the grave would qualify for a free Civil War marker.

“We were very happy when we heard they had a stone for us,” Kay said.

The white marble stone marker was sent to the Day County Veterans Service Office where Kevin Bohn and Marcia Solberg oversaw the placement of the marker last month, working with sexton Rick Buhler.

“It’s been a long search but we’re really happy now,” Kay said. “It’s been very enjoyable. We look forward to Memorial Day.”

Kay and Jim – who was instrumental in doing research – along with Ruth and Helen, who are both from Aberdeen, will be at the Memorial Day program at Prairie Mound. Verna is unable to attend the event.

Throughout this adventure, Kay said they’ve learned more about their family history than they ever thought possible. They discovered the original Morey farm in Crocker which they didn’t even know existed and they learned there was a nephew to Chauncey by the same name from the Lily area who ended up in Canada.

The next thing they’re trying to track down is where Chauncey was stationed while in the military and in what battles he may have been involved. Kay said their dad told them Chauncey had been a drummer boy but they haven’t found the evidence to support that claim – yet.

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